April 2, 2021

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Students Tyler Beauchamp, Rushay Amarath-Madav, Andy Nguyen pool their talent to thank the frontline

Here is more evidence of the impact of MCG’s secret sauce. Second-year medical students Tyler Beauchamp and Rushay Amarath-Madav have music in their soul and they and the other talented members of the student-organized Music in Medicine regularly use their love of music to help soothe troubled souls. These unprecedented times also inspired them to use music as a message of thanks to frontline people like all of you, as well as those who have continued to ensure other fundamentals like delivering our mail and cooking and delivering great food to us. Tyler and Rushay met first-year Andy Nguyen, a skilled video producer, and the three became quite a team, logging about 500 hours to produce their great product. Our students also reached out to colleagues around the nation for images that would help tell the story and the response “exploded.” To me the final product also is an explosion of talent and compassion that now is proudly displayed on the MCG home page and elsewhere. I hope you will take a few minutes to watch the piece. Our students look and sound like rock stars. You might also want to check out the powerful piece that Dee Griffin, reporter and co-anchor for the local ABC affiliate, WJBF, put together about them.

Dr. Eric Belin de Chantemele honored by the American Physiological Society

Here’s more. Henry Pickering Bowditch was a soldier, physician and physiologist, who got his first degree from Harvard University in 1861, then attended Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Medical School, set up the first physiology laboratory in the country and served for a decade as dean of Harvard Medical School. He was also the first president of the American Physiological Society. An award and lectureship given at the annual American Physiological Society bears his name, and later this month during the society’s annual meeting held in conjunction with Experimental Biology, our Dr. Eric Belin de Chantemele, physiologist in the Vascular Biology Center, will be honored with both. Like its namesake, the award honors early career achievement in physiology (for those younger than 42) and Dr. Belin de Chantemele has definitely been busy. He came to us as a postdoc in the Vascular Biology Center in 2006, then joined the faculty of our VBC and has been a prolific scientist and educator ever since.

His research focus includes dissecting the unhealthy relationship between obesity, cardiovascular disease

Dr. Belin de Chantemele’s current works includes being PI on three National Institutes of Health grants, recipient of an American Heart Association Established Investigator Award and sponsor on two NIH K99 awards for his (former) postdoc Dr. Thiago Bruder do Nascimento, who is now on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Dr. Jessica Faulkner, who will completing her postdoc soon, and who I am glad to say is joining our Department of Physiology June 1. His award lecture is titled “Obesity-Associated Cardiovascular Disease: The Exposed Secret of the Sexes.” He will talk about how the hormone leptin, which is secreted by our adipose, or fat, tissue is a factor in cardiovascular disease in obesity in both males and females but through different paths. Most of us think of leptin as the satiety hormone that tells us to stop eating (if we listen), but his work has shown that in obesity leptin also increases the activity of the cardiovascular system in a bad way and that it’s a key connection in why obesity is bad for the cardiovascular system. More to come on his work and his talk. But let me add here my thanks to Dr. Belin de Chantemele for his hard work, and my congratulations for his early success in the widely impactful field of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Matt Lyon takes on interim role of associate dean for simulation education

This takes us back to a key ingredient of MCG’s secret sauce: great people who stay with us. I have half-joked in the not so distant past about how I like to hang onto people and places. I am glad that Dr. Belin de Chantemele and 1999 MCG graduate Dr. Matt Lyon do too. Because, when it works, while there is inevitable frustration, there is also unbelievable fulfilment. Dr. Lyon completed his emergency medicine residency with us as well before joining our faculty and he is currently a lot of important things including vice chair of academic programs and research for the Department of Emergency Medicine, as well as director of the emergency and clinical ultrasound fellowship and Section of Emergency and Clinical Ultrasound. He is an innovator, is expanding the use of side-effect free ultrasound as well as boundary-free telemedicine, and is helping make our students and residents skilled in both. As a former student and resident at MCG, he loves and excels at educating the current generation of both, so I am happy to share that as of June 1, Dr. Lyon will also be interim associate dean for education simulation in the MCG Office of Academic Affairs.

Dr. Matthew Tews is heading to Indiana and closer to home

What I am not so happy to share is that Dr. Matthew Tews, also an emergency medicine physician, who was named associate dean for educational simulation in September 2019, is leaving us. Dr. Tews has been named associate dean and director of the West Lafayette campus of the Indiana University School of Medicine. This move puts him much closer to family, and we wish him well and thank Dr. Tews for his incredible service. Vice Dean for Academic Affairs Dr. Doug Miller tells us Dr. Tews has completely revamped simulation-based medical education for our students and residents alike and his most recent contributions are to the new MCG 3+ course Patient Centered Learning. Dr. Lyon already has the title executive director of the Center for Ultrasound Education, which he will keep, and Dr. Miller says that his work already has improved the clinical education of our students, the safety training of residents and has been key to using technology to improve our support of our statewide campus network, a network that is invaluable to Georgia’s only public medical school. Thanks Dr. Lyon. Your alma mater looks forward to seeing what you can do next.

Dr. Hedong Li gets NIH Exploratory/Development Research grant to fine tune process of reprogramming astrocytes into neurons

Of course I also love it when great new people come here and as we talked about recently, thanks to the huge recruitment effort led by Dr. Xin-Yun Lu, chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, one of those new individuals is Dr. Hedong Li, molecular neuroscientist, who came to us in October from Penn State University. Like so many of our great scientists, Dr. Li is working on a condition where patients and families want and deserve progress. His focus is spinal cord injuries, in his case the fascinating goal of reprogramming astrocytes, which have the usual function of supporting our neurons, to become neurons themselves that could help repair a spinal cord injury. Last year while still at Penn State, he received a $1.8 million NIH grant to help support this cellular reprogramming, and I am happy to share he just received a two-year $423,500 R21 Exploratory/Development Research grant to further explore the construct he devised to help ensure that the right mix of neurons result — excitatory ones to make things happen and inhibitory ones to prevent too much action. As we say, it’s complicated but he has devised a combination of the transcription factor NeuroD1, which during our development helps stem cells become neurons, and microRNA 124, which also aids the formation of neurons during development and their differentiation, including into inhibitory neurons which NeuroD1 alone does not produce. Li and his colleagues already have good evidence this will work, and the R21 will enable further examination of the construct’s efficiency and effectiveness in the injured spinal cord. In his short time here, Dr. Li already has found good colleagues like longtime faculty member (he came in 2003) Dr. Sergei Kirov, neuroscientist and director of the 2-Photon Microscopy Core in the Neuroscience Department. We are glad you are here Dr. Li and that you are still here Dr. Kirov. Dr. Kirov actually worked closely with Dr. Lu in the recruitment of new neuroscience faculty, chairing all the search committees, which illustrates some of that fulfillment we were talking about and how together the old and new build a stronger MCG. On the topic of brains, check out the most recent edition of The Means Report, also on WJBF, featuring neuro-oncologist Dr. John Henson and neurosurgery chair Dr. Fernando Vale. More rock stars.

A well-earned Spring break

Finally today, I hope some of you will have an opportunity to relax a bit over Spring Break next week. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your extraordinary efforts every day. It is a privilege to work with you.

Please continue to take good care out there, wear a mask and get vaccinated.

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